Painting Flames on Your Mustang
Written by Bill Tumas
This is the step by step process of the flame job done on my 1996 Cobra. The old adage holds true that it's not what you know, it's who you know. I have to thank my friend Brent Combs as he was instrumental in doing this job and without him, it would not have come out anywhere near as nice as it did. Brent works for a dent wizard type place so he is used to touch up work, but this was something entirely different for him as well. Make sure the area you use is WELL ventilated and wear the proper masks when spraying.
Step 1: This was by far the hardest step of all for me. To put it simply, paint will not stick to wax. So, step one was removing all the wax and most of the clear coat off the front of my car for the paint to stick properly. In other words, I backed my immaculate 96 Cobra into the corner of my garage and we took Scotch Brite pads to it until the entire front end looked as bland as a chalkboard. I am told you can use dry Scotch Brite pads, but we wet them down so the results were not as obvious until it dried. At this point we broke out the chalk and started literally drawing flames on the paint of the car. We quickly discovered my flames looked like earthworms so I grabbed the camera and let Brent finish the drawing.
Step 2: Once the flames were drawn on the car it was time to trace them with 3M flexible plastic tape. This is approximately $5 a roll so you do not want to make a lot of mistakes. Of course, we did.
Step 3: Here is the final step of the taping. Once its all done go over it and make sure that all the tape lays properly and that there are no parts where it is loose. High pressure paint will find ANY small gaps when applying paint.
Step 4: Once you have all the lines laid out it's time to cover everything else you do not want to get paint on. Don't forget wheel wells, trim, etc. Pay extra attention to covering everything UNDER the hood. Again, remember that paint will find its way EVERYWHERE when you spray it.
Step 5: In our case we found a bare piece of metal and painted a practice flame on it. We came up with the blue and silver combo ahead of time and when I saw it in person, I knew that was what I wanted the finished product to look like.
Step 6: Before beginning to spray the car remember again that the paint will go EVERYWHERE (seeing a pattern yet?). Cover everything of value in the area.
Step 7: Go over every part of the car with a pre-cleaner. This removes dirt and other materials from the surface and also preps the surface for the paint. This will help get you the best finish possible from a car painted in a garage. We repeated this step about 5 times and then hit the car with its first coat of blue. Remember the first several coats will not resemble the finished product in any way. At this point I had a black car with a purple front end and was starting to wonder what I was thinking when I decided to do this.
Step 8: Cover car with repeated coats of base color. At this point it was starting to look like a solid color but still very slate blue/purple in color. I actually liked the way the color looked at this point, but again it was far from the finished product. We ended up spraying 5 coats of paint to get the desired finish.
Step 9: Now it's time for the clear coat. Since we got some dirt in the paint (it's going to happen in a garage) we decided to lightly wet sand the entire surface of the paint and then hit it with the pre-cleaner again to get it as good as possible. We followed with 4 coats of clear.
Step 10: Here is the car with the freshly finished clear coat. Notice we removed the front tape from the flames since the black had been stripped of its clear in step 1 and had to be re-cleared to make it right.
Step 11: All the tape was removed from the car and you can see the finished flames. This was pre wet sand and buff.
Step 12: Here is a picture of the car once it was completely wet sanded and buffed out. The flames still had a nice edge to them since the paint was layered over the original black. This would be remedied once the car was striped.
Step 13: This was another killer. After trying it myself and realizing most children can stay in the lines better than I can, I decided to have the flames outlined by a professional. I found a reputable local shop and they told me that I would have to prep the car again for paint. So now I had to once again take the wetsand paper to my fresh paint job and prepped all the edges of the flames for the pinstriper to work his magic. Pinstriping is definitely an art and the results came out far better than I had hoped.
Step 14: Now that the car was striped I needed to re-clear the sections where the clear coat was removed. I decided to go a little crazy here and have a local shop strip and re-clear the whole car. I went with a pro here since the entire car was going to be redone and it's easy to get a lot of dust in the clear. I would recommend asking around at local car shows and car clubs before you spend your hard earned money. I found a local shop with a good reputation and the end results speak for themselves. Including the professional clear coat I have less than $2000 total into the paint job including all materials, pinstriping, etc. I doubt most shops could replicate this paint job for 3 times that. I have been very happy with it and it gets compliments every time I drive it.
* Please be advised that this information is for suggestion only and is based on prior experience. We at CJ Pony Parts can not be held responsible or liable for any mistakes or injuries connected with the topics covered.